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Getting a bigger slice from beef

You remember the Flat Iron, Ranch Steak and other value-added beef cuts discovered within the shoulder clod that were unveiled nearly a decade ago. The beef industry estimates those cuts added $50 to $75 per head more in value to the carcass.

The second frontier in new beef cuts, this time from the chuck roll, is poised to add another $20 to $30 per head in value when the cuts reach full market potential, says Jim Etheridge, director of the Beef Innovations Group in Denver, Colo. Product names to watch and ask for are the Denver Cut, Delmonico Steak, Boneless Country-Style Ribs, Sierra Cut and America’s Beef Roast.

A part the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, BIG consists of meat scientists, culinary experts and marketing specialists who helped develop the cuts and are promoting and educating the public about them. Chris Calkins and other University of Nebraska meat scientists, through their muscle profiling study that began in 2002, were instrumental in discovering the new beef cuts from portions of the carcass, such as the chuck, which makes up 30% of the carcass and traditionally has been cut as roasts or ground as hamburger. The round, comprising 23% of the carcass, also is a focal point for new value-added cuts.

At a glance

• Another wave of convenient beef cuts is hitting the market.

• UNL’s muscle profiling research led to the new discoveries.

• The latest cuts come from the chuck roll and include the Denver Cut.


The new products from the chuck roll are being marketed, but it will take time to make the retail and food-service sectors, as well as consumers, more aware of them.

“The Flat Iron is now a popular, standard cut that took about eight years to get to that point,” Etheridge says. “It’s not quick. But I think this group of cuts will move faster than the first wave of products.”

University of Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Beef Council are involved in this education process with recent beef value cut demonstrations. Near Mead this spring, at the UNL Agricultural Research and Development Center, Extension educators Sara Ellicott and Jessica Jones demonstrated to meat cutters and consumers how the chuck roll is separated to come up with the products. After the demo, they cooked them and offered samples.

Muscles that lie on top of the chuck roll produced the Flat Iron, Ranch Steak and Petite Tenders. This time, the cuts have come from the chuck roll under the shoulder blade and are a bit more difficult to access.

The muscle profiling study revealed that the Denver Cut is the fourth-most-tender cut in the entire carcass. The study also showed, as part of the first wave of new products from the shoulder clod, that the Flat Iron was the second-most-tender cut in the carcass.

Building demand

“It’s still the beginning stages of promotion and marketing, and access to the products has been spotty,” Etheridge points out.

Promotion is a grassroots effort, by getting consumers aware of the convenient, tasty cuts, and then building demand so food-service and grocery chains will carry them.

Tyson Foods, for example, supplies retailers with a four-piece chuck roll that includes the Denver Cut and Sierra Steak, according to Etheridge.

Several food-service and retail outlets offer the cuts, and the list is growing. The beef checkoff has funded a lot of this work on the national level.

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HIGH-YIELDING PORTION: Extension educator Jessica Jones demonstrates cutting the chuck eye portion of the chuck roll. She cut three Demonico steaks and country-style ribs and then left an America’s Beef Roast from the other end.

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TRIMMING: Sara Ellicott, UNL Extension educator, trims the under blade portion of the chuck roll, removing extra fat and connective tissue. The entire piece was then cut into Denver steaks.

This article published in the July, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.